[Ahem, Mom, I got this done on the right day! Be proud!] This month has been a big one for us. In addition to the developmental progress listed later, we've also noticed progress in attachment. Much of the reading I've done suggests there's a loose formula for attachment in older-child adoptions:
child's age at adoption x 2 = months needed to form a strong bond
So, in other words, Nasko was five and a half at the time of his adoption. It is feasible that we will not feel bonded with him until he has been home for around eleven months.
Obviously this is not a hard and fast rule, but it seems like a logical guideline. It seems to be proving true, as Chance and I agree that we are beginning to really see Nasko as our son. We have bonded with him in the way that most biological parents bond with their child during the nine months of the baby being in the womb.
We are also seeing great progress in Nasko's bonding with us. Just this week he asked to go visit his orphanage and go "night-night" with his friends. In other words, he wanted to visit and spend the night. When we explained that he was "all-done orphanage" because he had a mama and a taty now, he thought for a moment before saying "Friends here. With Mama and Taty? Go night-night?" Now he is not willing to give up his mama and taty and is actually interested in sharing them with his orphanage friends!
On to the developmental progress:
The biggest development this month has been Nasko's ability to answer "Why?" questions.
Typically when Nasko is in trouble, I put him in timeout and explain why he is sitting there. He is then required to sit quietly for four minutes. At the end of his time, I reiterate the reason that Nasko was disciplined and try to give him an alternative to the negative behavior (ex. "You may not kick the dog, but you may pet him on his head.")
Recently, Chance and I have begun asking HIM to answer the "Why?" question. We put Nasko into timeout and say, "Why are you in timeout?" He typically signs "Why?" and then gives a simplified answer (ex. "Ouch, Allen!"). Since we have begun this process, Nasko almost ALWAYS can answer the question appropriately.
Because of his ability to answer "Why?", we are beginning to expand our questions to "Who?" He is just beginning to show some understanding of this question. Hopefully "Who?" and maybe "Where?" will click this month.
This is honestly a development that sets my heart at ease. Many children with serious cognitive disabilities (like autism) cannot mentally process the question "Why?" They are unable to come up with the words needed to answer and potentially cannot even see a connection between their behavior and their punishment without being told. Nasko not only understands the question of "Why?" and the reasoning behind his punishments, he is also able to take a complex issue and verbalize it in simple terms (ex. "I hit Allen on the head and hurt him" becomes "Ouch Allen head." This development is helping us cross some diagnoses off our list.
Nasko is beginning to recognize some letters of the alphabet. He received two puzzles for Christmas that have the ABCs and a picture which corresponds with the letter. One of the puzzles also has the sign language for the letter. The other day, when Nasko and I were playing in his room, he saw the puzzle piece containing the sign for "Y." In his always hurried nature, he ran past it and yelled "Yarn!" On that particular puzzle, the "Y" is matched with a picture of yarn!
Nasko has been listening to books and watching TV! These are huge developments as he never used to have the attention span for either activity. He doesn't always understand what is happening in certain books, but his favorite book is about his adoption, and he can retell the story in his own vocabulary. He loves to look at the pictures and label what is happening.
The TV-watching is a SUPER new development. At Christmas, my sister-in-law suggested that Nasko might enjoy the show "Shaun the Sheep." The show does not actually contain any real speech (they ARE sheep after all). Nasko does seem to pick up on the body language and story lines presented in the show. He has been watching it quite a bit the past few days and even setting it up so his Little People can watch it! They are also quickly becoming fans of Shaun the Sheep.
Nasko's vocabulary is probably around 500 words now. He literally does NOT stop talking during his waking hours. My mother claims that this is my payback for being such a talker as a child (and let's face it, as an adult...)
NASKO GAINED TWO POUNDS! I want to shout it from the rooftops! He has been home for ten months and has grown almost four inches, but until this month, Nasko had not gained a single pound. Since he came home, he has weighed 39 pounds. When we were at the doctor this month, he tipped the scale at 41 pounds! I think he may still be growing as he seems to be trying to eat us out of house and home...
All of a sudden, Nasko has become very interested in tracing letters and words. He practices this skill at school with his name daily, but after receiving a dry-erase tracing board for Christmas (thanks Vances!), he has been on a roll. He can pick out a few of the letters from his name, and trace them relatively well.
Nasko's behavior has improved greatly this month. He seems to be understanding the hierarchy of our home (he ain't the boss... you'd think it wouldn't be too hard to understand...) and has begun following our rules and understanding consequences well.
To give an example, Nasko will seek sensory impact or pressure when he is overstimulated by slamming himself onto his knees from a standing position (he calls this "Ouch knee.") Since Nasko received a mini trampoline for Christmas, we now have an appropriate and acceptable alternative for this required sensory impact.
While playing, Nasko knows that if he slams himself down, he has to sing the ABCs while jumping on the trampoline. He's not necessarily in trouble, but he is reminded of an acceptable way to get the impact he is seeking. Nonetheless, a rule in our home is, "If you slam to your knees, you must jump on the trampoline." The other day, I was doing laundry and was not in the same room as Nasko. When I returned, he was jumping on the trampoline and signing "knees." He had slammed himself down and even though I was not in the room to enforce our rules, he knew what was expected of him.
We are still working on having Nasko dress himself. Christmas break has been a great opportunity for him to pick out his entire outfit (and Mama not be too embarrassed by weird choices.) He is very capable of putting on his underwear, socks, and pants independently (although the underwear sometimes ends up backwards), but he would much rather Mama or Taty do all the work for him. In other words, my kid is rather lazy!
Since Nasko still needs help putting on his shirts, I've recently tried sending him to his room and setting a timer for five minutes. When the timer is finished, he is supposed to have his pants, underwear and socks on. If they aren't on, Mama chooses his shirt for the day. If they are on, he gets to choose. We haven't quite mastered this yet, but we're going to keep trying!
We love our boy and thank God for every month he has been home. This month will be filled with an insane amount of doctor's appointments, but we are hoping to gain medical progress since we continue to make developmental progress!